Improved Flavor, Portion Size too Small- Shokugeki no Soma Season 2

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The first season of a series usually establishes the benchmark to which a second season is judged against, and the original is oftentimes considered superior to the successor.  It was very apparent that a second season to “Shokugeki no Soma” was inevitable, with the first season ending on a cliffhanger, abruptly lopped off during the final rounds of a cooking competition.  But whereas the first season had 24 episodes of content to play with, the second season has a mere 13 episodes to move the story forward.  Fortunately, it does not have to deal with difficult tasks such as establishing the story’s premise, developing the characters, or going over the competitions, but instead has to just live up to the standard established by the first season.  No problem, right?

Tasty food abounds once again
Tasty food abounds once again

Thankfully, the second season of “Shokugeki no Soma” picks up right where the first season left off with no delay whatsoever.  However, one dramatic shift immediately apparent and necessary for the second season is the pacing.  Whereas the first season had competitions that lasted several episodes, with multiple scenes of cooking and tactical analysis, the second season unfortunately compresses the same competitions and analysis into about half the time.  Thankfully, there are fewer competitions to speak of, with only the 8 highest scoring students coming back for a second round to see who would proceed onto the finals.  Now, this rush to move things along does begin to recede in the middle to later episodes, thankfully, which is a welcome relief because the tension and rivalry amongst characters rises immensely from the semifinals to the finals.  Thankfully, the series effectively leverages the characters’ past impressions to build and develop them further, with at least half a dozen recurring secondary characters present, and perhaps the most welcome secondary character from the first season for the last 2 episodes.  For Soma, however, though his apparent passion in the first season is still present, it is portrayed as being more internal in the second season, with him no longer displaying the “not good enough” fist and wanting to develop more as a leader and individual rather than a follower.  The result is a much more refined character, able to project his now much greater abilities and skills in more tactful manners.

 

Regarding the competitions themselves, the second season also thankfully minimizes the usage of fanservice-style reactions to all of the tasty food available.  Of course, reactions still occur with the same frequency, but there is a slight reduction in the usage of themes such as BDSM, moaning, and screaming, instead putting more emphasis on the techniques each character employs.  The second season also thankfully does away with the overuse of unnecessary nicknames for characters, resulting in a much more focused story and plotline.  Characters are able to portray themselves as characters, first and foremost, with their most important qualities being skill and tactics.  Artwise and animationwise, the tighter story and plotline mean the budget was more focused as well, with coloration easily matching, if not slightly exceeding, the first season due to more vibrant colors and more shading, though there are still a few signs of cheapness in terms of the drawings.  There is less animation, however, which can be seen as a cost-cutting measure, but thankfully this reduction in animation comes from areas such as the chibi scenes and performing the reaction scenes with less extroversion.

The rivalry between Akira and Ryo significantly intensifies in season 2
The rivalry between Akira and Ryo significantly intensifies in season 2

What holds this series back the most is the format, where its mere 13 episode length results in rushed, slightly shallow battles and limited opportunity to develop the secondary characters.  There were already too many characters in the first season, and thankfully the second season tries to mitigate this effect by giving some merely cameo appearances and others not giving them any screentime whatsoever.  There is a large sense that the secondary characters who are featured did progress, but the potential growth that could have been achieved was again held back by the series’ short length.  Even Takumi Aldini, who is given a thorough analysis by rival Mimakasa Subaru, is a victim of this, with the problem being even more apparent with Megumi Tadakoro and Erina Nakiri.  Nonetheless, like the first season, despite the series’ merely adequate technical aspects regarding plotline, animation, characters, and drawings, it does somehow manage to keep one’s interest in continuing with the series.  Each character has been developed to be extremely varied amongst his or her peers, and the second season exploits this to a much larger degree with the clash of skills, which keeps the tension high during and at the end of each episode.  The contest cliffhanger from the first season is concluded, thankfully, and another set of events begin for the Totsuki students, but of course, this is cut off due to the series’ length, making the perfect case for a third season.  The producers were shrewd and practical here, staying true to canon and waiting for more material to come out first instead of spearing off into a tangent or producing questionable-quality filler.

Individual growth is a common theme amongst recurring characters, especially Soma
Individual growth is a common theme amongst recurring characters, especially Soma

So overall, the second season of “Shokugeki no Soma” is successful in two fronts:  it manages to correct the flaws of the first season whilst being as good as its predecessor.  The excitement and fun that was present in the first season is more subdued in the second season, but is more refined and mature in the second season.  It still retains the tension and tactics that kept the first season so enjoyable.  Fans of the first season will easily eat it all up, the cliffhangers keep one wanting more, and the first season has been very popular amongst the anime community.  Bring on the next course with season 3, please.

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